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Frank Long : The Force Behind Cottage Grove’s Community Theatre

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Frank Long. The name is known around Cottage Grove as one of the pillars of strength behind the revolutionary strides the Cottage Theatre has made over the past fifteen years. Frank is a humble man and has a quiet wisdom and intelligence about him.  In his presence, one senses they are standing in the shadow of greatness.

Frank comes from a strong Journalism background. He was a reporter at a number of newspapers, Editor of the Atwater Signal, and was the News Editor for Radio KYOS in Merced, Ca.  Eventually, he picked up a teaching credential so he could share his knowledge.  He began teaching Journalism at Cottage Grove High School in 1970 and retired 20 years later.

His introduction to Cottage Grove theatre began when he was asked to write a review of Blythe Spirit for the local paper, The Sentinel, in the fall of 1983.  Prior to this, his only involvement had been small acting parts in high school and college.

The first show he acted in at the Cottage Theatre was Angel Street. In it, he did a phenomenal job portraying the Welsh detective and hero of the show. He became excited as this success rekindled his love with acting, and, as he said in his own words, “It also gave me an excuse to grow a full Dickensian beard despite some protests from my wife, Donna.”

For years afterwards, the Board of Directors asked Frank to join them, but he kept refusing in an attempt to avoid the politics behind the on stage magic he so loved. Finally, in 1990, he joined the Board so that he could do something about his vision of a bigger and better Cottage Theatre.

At that time, the Cottage Theatre’s building was small, only 1500 square feet, with the electrical system of a small house.  This made the lighting for productions difficult, among other problems.  Changing this was Frank’s number one reason for becoming a board member.

Frank’s first job on the board was to improve the ticketing. By 1994 he had become the President of the Board of Directors and was in a position to do something about his belief that a new theatre was necessary. This need was underscored when plans for a Wal-Mart entered the scene.  The location of the old theatre was considered valuable, a prime property for location of the giant retail store.  The bank shortened their lease.

KVAL sent a camera crew to broadcast a live performance at the old theater.  They interviewed Frank as well. After the broadcast, Cart Woodard heard about the Board of Directors’ fear of losing the beloved community theatre and made arrangements to meet with Frank and Theresa Findorff-Johnson, the Director of the play that night.

“Out of that meeting came the plan to build a new state of the art theatre (for Cottage Grove),” Frank recounts.

The Woodard Family Foundation came up with the initial money for planning, including the hiring of a fundraising consultant, who brought in their first large pledge of $50,000 from the Collins Foundation. After nearly a year of searching for the perfect place for the theatre to be built, the area next to Middlefield Village & Golf Course proved to be the perfect location.  The first production in the new theatre was a children’s play, You Can’t Take It With You.

Through thousands of volunteered hours the interior of the theatre came together in the majestic beauty it reflects now. There were many fundraisers the residents of Cottage Grove enthusiastically supported, such as personalized tiles sold for $1000 that line the lobby of the new building.  (see photo). Community members also sponsored seats for $1000 that have the donor’s name plagued on them. see Frank sitting in his sponsored seat in the featured photo.

One of Frank’s most beloved areas of the new theatre is the Children’s Workshop, a space for children who want to learn more about the art of theatre. Frank is seen standing in the Children’s Workshop in the photo.  “On one occasion, I watched about 40 ballet dancers in that nice, safe, well-lighted space waiting for their turn on stage in The Nutcracker. I was struck by their focus and self-discipline.

To experience Frank’s love and awe of the Cottage Theatre for yourself, attend a show during the 2008 season. Start the season off with The Pink Panther Strikes Again and enjoy other shows, such as the in-house productions Chicago, Harvey, Forever Plaid, A Streetcar Named Desire and Annie.  The theater will also be hosting the 2008 Metropolitan Rhythm & Blues Revue, First Impressions, the U of O Repertory Dance Company, The Gin Game, and the Eugene Youth Ballet Nutcracker.

Contact the Cottage Theatre box office for ticketing information at (541) 942-8001.

 

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6 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • Andrea – the Bahamas said:

    Good story–he sounds like one heck of a great, great guy.

  • Dean - Oklahoma said:

    I’m a huge fan of community theater and the idea of spreading arts and culture outside the large meccas of performing arts, your LA’s, your New York’s, your San Francisco’s. I love what the site is about, and what the site is doing.

  • Dean - Oklahoma said:

    I love the feel of the site, where its going, what you’re trying to do.

    Personally, I’m a huge fan of community theater and the idea of spreading arts and culture outside the large meccas of performing arts, your LA’s, your New York’s, your San Francisco’s.

    Frank Long brought passion to the theater but you don’t feel the passion in the article. Maybe adding some more about the Children’s Workshop, which Frank seemed so proud of.

    Like I said though, I love what the site is about, and what the site is doing.

  • Cynthia said:

    I did not like this article. I thought it was too dry.

  • Elizabeth – Louisiana said:

    I read this story about Frank Long and enjoyed it as it effectively portrayed the man’s love of the performing arts, as well as the challenges that community theaters often face.

  • Eve – Canada said:

    I am very interested in community theater. I particularly enjoyed the beginning of the article, because Mr. Long is introduced in a very personable way. You can sense that the author spent time with him, and I think this helps me to connect as well, in a vicarious way. The rest of the story was also captivating. You could see the incentives, the challenges, and the different stages our local hero went through as he brought his community forward. It was a bit like a very short, local and community-based, epic story (featuring an evil corporation)! All in all, it was a good article.

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